Suicide rates in Oklahoma, Tulsa among highest in the U.S

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma’s suicide rate is 37 percent higher than the national rate, yet the state ranks near the bottom in spending for mental health services.

The Tulsa World reports ( ) that nationally there are 12.6 suicides per 100,000 people each year. Oklahoma ranks 13th in the country with a rate of 17.2 per 100,000. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Tulsa’s suicide rate of 16.8 per 100,000 ranks 15th among U.S. cities.

“Obviously that’s concerning,” said Dr. Gerard Clancy, University of Tulsa vice president for health affairs and dean of the Oxley College of Health Sciences. Clancy is leading a long-range collaborative effort to address suicide and other mental health issues called the Tulsa Regional Mental Health Plan.

Funded by the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation and coordinated by TU, the initiative is a 10-year communitywide effort to focus on regional mental health improvements and includes a leadership council with philanthropy, business, university, state and nonprofit representation.

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Part of the effort is to look at the why, how and where suicides are happening and tailor plans accordingly. “We certainly know that the No. 1 predictor (for suicide) is clinical depression,” Clancy said.

Oklahoma ranks 50th in the nation in adults who suffer from some form of mental illness and 47th in adults with thoughts of suicide, according to Mental Health America.

Compounding the issue, the state ranks 46th in spending on mental health services at $53 per person annually compared with the national average of $120 per person.

Substance abuse also plays a role, Clancy said.

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The state ranks 43rd in adult drug and alcohol abuse, and Tulsa ranks as the fourth-highest city in the U.S. for alcohol-related traffic deaths per capita, according to a report from TU’s Institute for Health Care Delivery Sciences.

“Alongside that (there is) often some kind of precipitating event that involves a loss of some kind, like loss of a loved one, or job or level of prestige,” Clancy said.